Apple iPad - the Top Greenwash of 2010
A common marketing strategy of Apple CEO Steve Jobs is to hijack the cultural zeitgeist. And now Apple is hijacking green and sustainability.
Remember the famous 'think different' campaign? What in the world do posters of famous intellectuals and artists have to do with Apple? Nothing at all. Gandhi and Einstein weren't Apple customers and probably wouldn't have used Macs. But this worked well to help target Apple's main customers at the time, many of whom were creative professionals involved in 'thinking differently' as part of their creative process.
But creative professionals aren't Apple's core customers anymore. Instead, Apple is trying to dominate the mid-to-high end computer and cellphone markets. And recent marketing studies show global brands like Apple that customers in these markets care deeply about green and sustainability.
And out pops the new 'green' Apple.
It's great that the iPad isn't as toxic as it could have been. But if Apple were a truly green company the iPad could have been so much more - Maybe a solar powered iPad, or it could have included new hardware innovations that would reduce its carbon footprint and make it easily recyclable or even bio-degradable. This is what we should expect from a 'green' Apple.
But this is what we got instead: "Arsenic-Free, BFR-Free, Mercury-Free, PVC-free system, Highly recyclable."
Other than 'PVC-free', most of these 'features' seem to be simply the removal of toxins that are gradually being phased out of consumer electronics anyhow. And these would all be completely unnoticeable to consumers unless their iPad somehow exploded or set on fire. But if we ignore the reality distortion and attempt to really understand how Apple is addressing the environmental and sustainability concerns of the iPad, we come up grasping for straws:
Issue #1. Made in china. - Why not made in the USA? If companies are starting to build electric cars and solar cells in the US, we can definitely start making laptops, tablets and cellphones here too. President Obama would definitely support and encourage US-based electronics manufacturing and the jobs it would bring.
Issue #2. Crippled by design and cannot be upgraded. - The iPad, like the original iPhone, was released missing obvious features that are inexpensive and easy to include, and it seems that things were deliberately left out to require users to buy later upgrades. This original iPad is missing a camera, usb connectivity, and memory card slots, and at least some of these will surely be added to later models since the netbooks and e-Readers it competes with have them. So, many of these early adopters will just HAVE to get the new iPad Plus when it's released about 3-6 months after the original iPad.
Issue #3. Non user-serviceable, and not designed to be easily or inexpensively repaired. - Although Apple likes to say that this is somehow a feature that allows them to make a sleeker device, it's really just a way to ensure that you will need to pay a lot of money to service and repair the iPad.
Issue #4. Cannot be recycled by local recycling centers. - The drawback of built-in batteries is that they make the entire device unfit for disposal at a regular recycling center. A 'green' Apple would include pre-paid return labels with every iPad to ensure that users are educated about how to properly dispose of their iPads. But I guess this wouldn't be possible since Apple hasn't announced any recycling programs for their 'highly recyclable' iPad.
It's clear that being green means good business, and smart companies like Apple are starting to realize the importance of green in their marketing campaigns. But they also need to understand that being green needs to be much more than just another branding or marketing exercise. Products need to be designed with green ideals and concepts in mind, and the entire company needs to incorporate green and sustainability as a core business principle. Apple, as well as the rest of the consumer electronics industry, needs to stop trying to trick Green consumers and truly respect our values. They can and should do much better.